Stocks, dollar flash red ahead of Trump speech

(Evan Vucci, AP)
(Evan Vucci, AP)

London - The screens of stock traders were awash in red on Tuesday ahead of a key speech by US President Donald Trump and a deluge of company and economic announcements.

The dollar fell against other major currencies despite rising yields on US bonds, which would normally pull in investors seeking higher returns and support the greenback.

"The dollar's depressed price action suggests that uncertainty continues to mount ahead of President Donald Trump's State of Union address on Tuesday evening," said Lukman Otunuga, a research analyst at FXTM online currency trading firm.

"While the speech itself may not be a market shaker, there could be fireworks and dollar volatility if Donald Trump goes off-script," he added.

Wall Street opened sharply lower on Tuesday, a day after posting its largest drop in more than four months, with the Dow slumping by 1.1% in late morning New York trading.

The reversal for equities comes just as Trump, who has repeatedly taken credit for the record run on the stock market, will make his most important speech of the year about the state of the nation.

In addition to Trump's speech, investors may also be showing caution ahead of a spate of corporate earnings reports this week, including those from Apple, Facebook and other tech giants. The tech-heavy Nasdaq opened 1.0% lower on Tuesday.

This week's calendar also includes the US jobs report for January and a two-day Federal Reserve meeting that will update the market on the outlook for more interest rate increases.

'Fear has spread' 

European indices fell across the board.

The Paris CAC 40 came close to crossing over into positive territory at one point as official data showed the French economy notching up its fastest growth in six years, expanding by 1.9% in 2017. The 2.5% growth for the eurozone was the best in a decade.

But the CAC ended the day down 0.9%. Frankfurt gave up 1.0% and London shed 1.1%.

"The large sell-off in the US last night got traders nervous, and now the fear has spread," said David Madden at CMC Markets UK.

Stock prices were also suffering from the higher US bond yields.

While equities have been striking records, the question some investors may soon pose is how far the rally can go and whether bonds may once again offer better returns.

Yields on bonds are rising as central banks move to reduce massive injections of cash stimulus that has helped to prop up the global economy since the financial crisis of a decade ago.

"Certainly the dynamics have shifted in bond markets," noted Wilson.

"Central banks are either out of the market or buying fewer bonds. The Fed is now in the business of selling not buying."

Asian markets also fell on Tuesday, with Tokyo, Hong Kong, Seoul, Taipei, Jakarta and Manila all tumbling more than one percent.

The drop of more than 2% in Apple's share price on Monday after the Nikkei daily reported it was slashing production of its latest iPhone model, adding to worries about the company's earnings, reverberated across Asia on Tuesday.

The tech giant will halve production of the iPhone X in the three-month period from January from the level envisaged at the time of its release in November, the business paper said.

Apple suppliers were among those hit hard, with Sony and electronics components maker Murata both losing 1.9%.

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